Final Fantasy VII Rebirth: Square Enix discusses reimagining iconic characters Sephiroth and Aerith

With his long silver hair, enormous odachi blade and epic theme song composed by legendary Nobuo Uematsu himself – Sephiroth is one of the most recognizable antagonists in RPG’s history.  

The one-winged angel debuted in the original Final Fantasy VII in 1997 as a once-loved war hero and first-class SOLDIER who descended into madness and promised to destroy the planet upon learning of his unnatural creation. But there is much more to Sephiroth than just that.

In Final Fantasy VII Remake, Sephiroth appears sporadically, mainly as a haunting memory, as the story focuses on Cloud and his friends trying to stop the evil corporation Shinra from killing the planet by using its life essence, mako, as an energy source. 

In the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, however, we will see Sephiroth in his full glory. We asked Producer Yoshinori Kitase to discuss reimagining this iconic character in the Remakes. 

Yoshinori Kitase: The story in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth starts after the team has escaped Midgar and continues all the way up to the Forgotten Capital. In the original game, Sephiroth barely appeared during this section, but in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, he is the driving force that pulls the story along to fill that void. He is depicted in even more depth than in the original game, and I think this makes him an even more charismatic and appealing antagonist than before.

Let’s remember that Sephiroth has built his legacy as a silent tiny 3D character played on the original PlayStation. The latest Destined for Rebirth trailer shows how much has changed since then. We asked Mr. Kitase and Creative Director Tetsuya Nomura how it feels to see Sephiroth fully come to life thanks to modern game mechanics.

Kitase: The scene at the beginning of the game where Sephiroth joins your party and fights together with Cloud was very exciting. One of the distinctive features of this game is the new synergy system where characters team up to perform combination attacks and seeing Cloud and Sephiroth fight together like that felt so thrilling.

Nomura: The evolution of the characters wasn’t a sudden mutation – we’ve seen gradual changes over several spin-off titles and in Final Fantasy VII Remake itself, and they are evolving even further in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. Of all the characters, Sephiroth, in particular, has appeared in multiple different games, with each appearance adding more layers of detail, making him that much deeper as a character.

In a certain sense, we are seeing this evolved and in-depth portrayal of Sephiroth as him now “returning” to his roots in the remake series, and so naturally, his presence will be much deeper and clearer than it was in the original. On the other hand, the fans have now a much greater knowledge and understanding of Sephiroth, so I hope the players can see the character’s appeal even more strongly.

A tumultuous relationship between Cloud and his once-hero-now-arch-enemy Sephiroth, is the central motif of the game. However, Sephiroth is linked to yet another important character – Aerith. And it was Aerith’s fate back in 1997 that is considered by many one of the most shocking and memorable moments in video game history. 

Kitase: Aerith’s fate is one of the most important themes in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s story. I really want people to play the game and feel it directly, so I will not say too much here, but when comparing this scene to how it was presented in the original, I am confident that the audience will feel a great breadth of emotion from the extra level of detail in how the characters are portrayed.

Reimagining the story of a classic like Final Fantasy VII is not a small task. The original game is one of the most influential RPGs of all time, and Final Fantasy VII Remake has been a massive success, selling over 7 million copies. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth itself has already won several ‘Most Anticipated Game of the Year’ awards. We asked Mr. Kitase how the development team approached balancing fans’ expectations and creating a new and expanded storyline.

Kitase: As there are many fans of the series, I felt it was essential to keep the majority of the elements from the original game. On the other hand, if we simply followed along, keeping the story unchanged, it would only appeal to people’s nostalgia. We added the Whispers as a new element that could “shake up” the storyline and thus create a feeling of anticipation towards where things were going. I think that has already proved to be appealing to the fans.

So, what does this all mean for Sephiroth and Aerith? ‘No Promises to Keep’ evoked many strong emotions in players, including fear and hope for how the story will play out. Here’s the message Mr. Kitase left for those counting days to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s premiere and finding out what fate awaits our favorite flower peddler.

Nomura:  Whatever I say will give people a hint about what is going to happen, so this is very difficult to answer. Really, I can only say that I want players to experience what waits for them at the end of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and feel it for themselves rather than getting that second-hand. Different people will respond to it differently, but I think that they will want to pursue that feeling, whatever it is, and set out on their next journey soon.

Kitase: I invite you all to play Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and see with your own eyes how the modern generation of players will react to Aerith’s fate, a moment that created such an emotional impact on a huge number of gamers 27 years ago.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth launches on PS5 on February 29, 2024. In the meantime, we invite you to revisit Final Fantasy VII Remake with a brief recap of The Story So Far: